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XXVII. the lead-up to the proposal.

Yvonne also took leave for the day to provide another helping hand. I involved her for two main reasons. I wanted Huiyi to share this precious moment with her best friend, and I needed someone to safeguard the equipment at the pier while Gideon and Caleb waited for me to arrive. They were camping in the gents where I was going to change into my evening attire.

By the time I hopped into the Subaru, the crew reported their 100% readiness for Project Will-You-Marry-Me. The placards were pasted onto the railings, the guitar was in place, and the camera crew was in position. This was it – now we were only waiting for the stars of the show to arrive!

I drove into the clubhouse car park and parked at the first available car park lot I found because I was afraid that Huiyi may recognise Gideon’s car. Thank God he’s a smart boy – he parked in an obscure lot. We gathered our barang-barang, and I took my time with this because it was crucial that I didn’t miss out on any item, and exited the car for the lift lobby.

We had to change into our evening attire as we were in still in our sweaty and smelly USS tee-shirt and shorts. I managed to persuade her into wearing that Zara blouse; a week ago, I asked her why I haven’t seen her in that blouse for such a long time. I even pretended to lament, “Such a nice and expensive top, but yet you don’t wear it often enough…” She said she had already put it aside for Perth. Yes, she had also intended to wear that blouse for the proposal that she thought I was going to execute in Perth.

I frowned and told her that she has more than enough time to get it washed and packed for Perth. I persuaded her to wear something nice at Privé since it was a high-end restaurant. Again, she obediently complied with little resistance. I think it’s because every girl would want to look good on her birthday. Dining at a posh restaurant was my excuse to change into something pretty.

Next chapter: the change parade and the final countdown.

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XXVI. the rain on my parade.

See the rest of the photo album here.

I was as cool as a cucumber the entire day. I was so composed that I impressed myself because not once did I give it away by verbal or nonverbal cues. And I exploited Huiyi’s frequent toilet visits to update and keep myself updated with Gideon and Caleb. There was no way she could tell what my evening plans were.

It was bright and sunny the entire day, and it looked really promising that we would be treated to a beautiful sunset later. The only time I started to panic (on the inside) was when we couldn’t complete the last attraction.

The Waterworld show actually stopped halfway due to the inclement weather. Lightning struck and it began to drizzle. I received an SMS from the crew already at KBM and they did not bring positive news too. I had to pull myself together and trust that the Lord would clear the skies for me.

But He didn’t.

The one thing I persistently petitioned God for the entire week was for a nice sunset, for it was the only element out of my control; I had indented sunset, but God indented a thunderstorm. And I understood the idioms “Rain on my parade” and “When it rains, it pours” at a whole new level. There was nothing I could do except to remain positive.

We left USS to return to the car with dark and heavy clouds hanging over us. As soon as we exited the car park, before we hit the U-turn at Sentosa Gateway, a deluge of precipitation suddenly hit us.

“Woah, heng we got into the car in time man! Otherwise we would have gotten drenched!”

This actually translated as, “Sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian sian!!!”

Nonetheless, I texted the crew at KBM with bravado, “Rain or shine, we will proceed! Nothing will stop me from getting engaged today!”

Next chapter: the lead-up to the proposal.

XXV. the actual visit to USS.

See the rest of the photo album here.

It was crucial that we secured the Subaru Impreza (Huiyi’s mother’s car) for the day and Huiyi used her birthday trump card to ensure that. She picked me up in the morning, not knowing that I had barely three hours of rest the night before; I was tying up all the loose ends of what would be the most exciting day of our courtship so far.

We ate a simple breakfast of chai tow kuay and chwee kuay at Ghim Moh Market. Then we drove to Telok Blangah Road and parked the car behind Seah Imm Food Centre, displaying a dashboard full of coupons to ensure that we didn’t receive a parking summon when we returned from USS.

Then I asked her if she wanted to take the bus or the monorail into Sentosa. It would have been my third time if we took the bus but I had to pretend that it was my first time attempting to enter USS. She opted for the monorail.

We entered USS together – her first time and my third – and I felt so terrible and guilty having to act surprised, astonished and impressed by all the sights and sounds we were taking in.

  • “Let’s try to find the map of this place.” (I could navigate USS with my eyes closed.)
  • “Look, Kungfu Panda! Let’s take a picture with him!” (This was my third time seeing Po.)
  • “This place is really cool uh? I didn’t know it’d be so crowded.” (I knew all along.)
  • “We can pick up a couple of souvenirs at the gift shop later if you want.” (There’s nothing nice in there.)
  • “Huh? We’ve walked one round already? USS is smaller than I thought!” (Same thing I told Rudith… Twice!)
  • “Let’s look for the washroom.” (I pretended to study the map.)
  • “Dear, what’s Universal Express Pass?” (I wanted to answer my own question…)
  • “Shall we have lunch at Coffeebean instead?” (I wanted to avoid the overpriced and overrated restaurants in USS.)

After we queued up for and completed our first ride (Shrek in 4D), we decided that we should each pay $30 extra and purchase the express pass. And we were glad we did because we took all but two rides and didn’t get a chance to revisit a ride! More importantly, the $60 spent helped to prevent disappointment; the only ride that urged for a repeated attempt was Battlestar Galactica. The other rides simply did not justify the waiting time.

Next chapter: the rain on my parade.

XVIII. the birthday that nearly ruined the proposal.

There weren’t many people who knew about the proposal. I wisely decided to keep it from her parents because I wasn’t confident that they could contain their own excitement and keep this secret from her, but I chose to confide in her brother, Xianyi, instead.

The reason why we couldn’t visit USS on Thursday was that we celebrated her birthday with her family on that evening. And the reason we deliberated for a week was that she was trying to arrange for an evening where her parents, brother and his girlfriend, as well as both of us were all available.

It was so trying that she had nearly wanted cancel the family dinner. And Xianyi, another unsung hero in this story, couldn’t intervene as much because he was supposed to help me keep it a secret. He skipped a school lesson to ensure that he was available on that Thursday evening for the family dinner, and missed a birthday (or farewell) party on Friday evening to ensure that his parents were home. More on that later but know that these are important pieces of information.

Normally, a boyfriend would pay special attention to his girlfriend’s birthday. But this dinner was so low-key to the extent that I forgot to buy a birthday cake on Thursday and had to trouble Xianyi to do it for me instead. My mind was focussed on one thing only – the proposal. I was surprised that Huiyi didn’t suspect anything from my lack of preparation for this birthday dinner.

Anyway, we celebrated Huiyi’s birthday on Thursday with her family at Peony Jade and this left Friday cleared for us to spend the day at Sentosa, as well as to have a private birthday dinner at Privé. Initially she wanted to dine at Lawry’s (and I had already made reservations for two) but I convinced her that Privé would be a better choice, simply because of location.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have dinner by Keppel Bay Marina? I read reviews on hungrygowhere.com and apparently Privé’s got quite good ratings. Shall we try a new restaurant?”

Once again, she nodded and even told me that she had been to KBM a few times with her colleagues. I played along and told her, “Cool, then you can bring me around after dinner since you know the place better than I do.”

Now by this time, you might have realised that the original proposal plan had modified significantly, because she decided to take leave on her birthday to spend a day at USS together with me.

The original plan was to propose at MBC, then head to Lawry’s for dinner. But I had to throw that idea away, as well as the office surprise by her girlfriends. Why? Well, she wasn’t going to be at work that day! A major modification, but it was still fundamentally the same idea.

(I couldn’t get) Sunset by the (beach, so instead I got sunset by the) bay – check. I was good to go.

Next chapter: the inception – the surprise within a surprise.

XVII. the sunset on his screen.

Since it was pouring, the only thing I could capture on my iPhone 4 was the environment. Again, just like at USS, I took a surfeit of photos and videos to send to Gideon and Caleb.

10 minutes later, after I walked around to take as many photos of the surroundings as I could, I was mildly discouraged by the time I walked back to the hut. Seeing my semi-forlorn face, this man asked me what I was doing here. I explained briefly. I also told him that I had hoped to see the sunset. His response stunned me.

“Don’t worry, young man. This place has a beautiful sunset every evening. You can’t see it fully today because of the rain.” He assured me and brought out his handphone to show me his wallpaper as if to prove his statement to me. Of all images, it was a picture he snapped of the sunset at KBM. I smiled, thanked the Lord in my heart for this special arrangement, and easily mustered a whole-hearted “Thank you!” to this stranger. I took my final shots of the place and made my way out.

Yes, I had to endure the walk of shame all over again. I tried to wait for a taxi at the clubhouse, but there was none in sight after waiting for 15 minutes and I wasn’t successful in calling for a taxi. So I was left with no choice but to brave the rain and the 1.8 km again. I was determined to honour my word to the supervisor at the guardhouse, despite how uncharitable he was towards me.

And so, I fulfilled my part of the agreement, hopped onto a cab that exited the condominium, and made my way to my church in Bukit Gombak, where my cell group session was already underway. I found a modicum of comfort when my cell mates consoled me of the evening’s tragedy and applauded me of my enormous effort for the proposal.

Strangely enough, Huiyi couldn’t make it for cell that evening because she had a business function (an annual dinner and dance) to attend to. I guess it all worked out well after all.

Next chapter: the birthday that nearly ruined the proposal.

XIV. the other ideas that were rejected.

My first knee-jerk reaction was to return to the Southern-most Point of Sentosa. It was a significant location for Huiyi and I as we shared some wonderful memories there during the time that I courted her (before she agreed to be my girlfriend). I also considered returning to MBC or to the nearby Labrador Park…

She wasn't my girlfriend then... Silly her. :P

But it was already Monday evening when I canned the USS idea and I only had one Tuesday evening left (before cell group at 8:30pm) to recce one last location. Wednesday and Thursday evenings were no-go and Friday was it! I pressed the panic button a million times but honestly, I really thrived on the adrenaline. I am certain I perform better under stress.

And since I was no longer going to propose in USS, I had to find a way to sell the two tickets I bought for Gideon and Caleb to recoup losses. I texted a number of my friends to ask if they were interested but it was too last-minute for anyone to make it. Thank God Lionel came to the rescue and kindly agreed to sacrifice his Friday lunch break to head into USS to help tout my pair of tickets away with minimal loss. He didn’t disappoint and even made a small profit because he managed to sell it at a higher price to tourists who couldn’t enjoy the DBS discount. And to top it off, he even drove to Peony Jade on Thursday evening to collect the tickets from me. I just had to ensure that we did not see him when we were there.

There were other literally sky-high ideas I had considered – to propose on top of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) or The Pinnacles @ Duxton. It was way too costly to do it at the Sky Park of MBS and to request for logistical permission and access would be a nightmare so I took that idea out. When Huiyi and I were at The Pinnacles earlier this year, I also assessed the place and deemed it unsuitable for my proposal because I couldn’t find a single power point in the entire Sky Garden on the 50th floor.

Next chapter: the final excursion that decided my destiny.

XIII. the relentless schedule that week.

I was ready to can this USS idea, regardless of how unique it looked on paper. It simply didn’t fulfill the basic requirement of a sunset. And the last thing I wanted was to compromise on the twin guidelines. And I had only a couple of days left to rethink and redesign a proposal that promised to be just as memorable.

Before I continue, maybe I should provide some context into the kind of schedule I had that week. My hectic calendar multiplied the level of difficulty I had organising this proposal.

I sat for an exam on Monday morning and spent the bulk of the preceding weekend studying for it.

On Tuesday evening, I led bible study for my cell group and had to prepare the lesson.

On Wednesday evening, I led worship for J333 (a church prayer meeting) and had to rehearse for it.

On Thursday, I celebrated Huiyi’s birthday together with her family over dinner and I planned it.

And Friday was D-Day. Spending the entire Friday together in USS meant that I didn’t have the daytime to plan for the evening’s proposal and the night’s engagement party.

AND… I also planned for a surprise birthday party for Natalina on Saturday evening.

AND… I chaired a youth conference planning meeting on Sunday.

AND… This takes the cake… I preached in BOTH youth services that weekend…

It’s an understatement to say that I was on fire. It’s amazing how efficient I was that week. It must have been the grace of God working in what seemed to be the longest, most challenging yet more eventful week of my life!

Next chapter: the other ideas that were rejected.

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